This book is the main reason I’m into Marvel these days, trying to catch up with the films since it’s a bit late to catch up with the comic books it mentions. As a child, about the only comics I got to read were DC’s Superman - with a friend, because my mother wouldn’t let me read comics at home.
I had to order it on line from overseas, but don’t regret the effort. It’s a detailed history of US comics and the role Jewish artists and writers played in it. I did know about some Jewish comic book creators - for example, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the two Jewish boys who created Superman, and Rene Goscinny, the French writer of the Asterix comics.
What I didn’t know was that American Jewish artists pretty much founded the US comics industry, when antisemitism prevented them getting jobs in commercial art. Oh, there were comic books around, but they were mostly compilations of newspaper comic strips, nothing newly published and certainly not new characters and stories.
The story starts early in the 20th century and goes right through to the present day, including Neil Gaiman and Sandman(okay, he is British, not American, but he is Jewish).
The Jewish illustrators and writers often changed their names. You probably know about Stan Lee(changed from Lieber), but there were quite a few others, such as Jack Kirby(changed from Kurtzberg). I’ll leave you here with the Wikipedia entry for those characters created by Kirby, with others such as Stan Lee and Joe Simon(another Jew, born as Hymie Simon).
If you are a comics fan or watch the movies,you will recognise quite a few of the character names.
Did you know the satirical Mad Magazine was created by Jewish cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman? I didn’t till I read this book.
It’s pretty thorough, including underground comic books, and graphic novels such as the classic Maus - which was once on the Year 12 curriculum at my school, by the way.
It also discusses Marvel and DC characters whom the authors considered Jewish, though they only occasionally had a story where the character said they were.
The most obvious one is Magneto(X Men) who was a Jewish character, no question about it, but there are others who are mentioned in the book, which also includes snippets of the comics.
The book is colourful and entertaining, full of fascinating information I really didn’t know before.
Well worth ordering! It’s easier to buy in ebook than print at the moment, both on Kindle and Apple Books, but there are some print copies available from Book Depository.
There are other books on this subject, and I have a few I’m still reading, so I will get back to you with more reviews when I finish them.
So, what do you think, readers? Any comic book fans out there?